The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 55
(Part 2 of 5)

Attorney General: Now, Professor Gilbert, you say that you took Judge Musmanno to Goering and acted as translator. What was said in that conversation?

Witness Gilbert: Well, Goering said more or less the same things that he had said to me, namely that he was sure that Hitler was dead and that his political testament was genuine. This was the political testament, I'm sure you all know, in which Adolf Hitler accused the Jews of starting a war and admitted ordering their extermination as punishment. There is psychology behind that, but we need not go into it. Then Goering, of course, was asked what he thought about this crime of extermination and he immediately said: "Well, this, of course, was not any business of mine, it was not in my jurisdiction, it was under the jurisdiction of Himmler and his boys, Heydrich, Eichmann and so on."

Q. Did you introduce Judge Musmanno to other accused persons?

A. Yes, there were some others, but frankly I don't remember the details at this point. There were other interpreters available, enlisted men, and some of the other accused did speak English.

Q. Did Judge Musmanno also see other accused men, such as Ribbentrop, Frank, von Schirach, von Papen and Kaltenbrunner?

A. I believe so, but frankly, I don't remember all the rest of the details.

Q. Did you talk to Judge Musmanno about Eichmann?

A. No, we didn't. There was really no occasion to speak about Eichmann at the time. Frankly, he wasn't thought of very much by the major Nazi war criminals, and anyway, I had reason to believe that he was dead, at that time.

Q. What led you to the conclusion that Eichmann was dead?

A. Well, his own boss, Kaltenbrunner, told me he was dead. I remember this conversation very vividly, because it was the one day on which, I'm afraid, I lost a little of my professional aloofness. This was a day on which a survivor of Auschwitz testified how the children born in concentration camps were taken from their mothers and never seen again, and then, in the rush season of 1944, children were thrown alive into the furnaces of Auschwitz. This was too much, even for a psychologist, and I went to Kaltenbrunner at lunch that day, and I said: "Herr Kaltenbrunner, now do you really mean to tell me that you know nothing about these things?" And he said, "No, no, really. I didn't have anything to do with the extermination programme as such. This was done by Heydrich and Eichmann and the people in that context - Heydrich, Eichmann and the others involved in this chain of command, from Himmler on down. And," he added, "they're all dead."

Q. Is that to be found on page 163 of your book?

A. Yes, this is a correct recording of the conversation I had with Kaltenbrunner, right out of my diary.

Q. Eichmann's name is mentioned here on a further occasion, after Wisliceny's evidence - I think on page 102. This is Goering's response when already in gaol, after Wisliceny's evidence.

A. Yes, I remember that conversation.

Q. What did Goering say then?

A. Well, his comment on Wisliceny's testimony was that Wisliceny looks like a big Schweinehund only because Eichmann isn't here - or to make it exact, that "Wisliceny is a little Schweinehund who looks like a big one, because Eichmann isn't here."

Q. Does this appear in your book?

A. Yes, this can be found in the original diary - all of these notes that are in the public version can be found in the original diary which I kept at the time.

Q. Did anyone else in the Nuremberg gaol talk to you about Eichmann when you were on your official mission?

A. Yes, the name came more and more into discussion, not so much amongst the main Nazi war criminals, but among the SS men of whom we had practically the entire military and police power in gaol in Nuremberg. There were many higher SS police officials, and I frequently ran across Eichmann's name there - at first, somewhat to my surprise, but more and more a clear picture emerged.

Q. Did you speak to Oswald Pohl about Eichmann?

A. Yes. Oswald Pohl - I believe his title was Obergruppenfuehrer Pohl, the Chief of the WVHA - was also in Nuremberg, and I, of course, discussed the atrocities with him.

Q. What did he say to you?

A. Well, he tried to get into a jurisdictional dispute about who had charge of the extermination programme. He, of course, disclaimed responsibility for himself, insisting that this was under Kaltenbrunner's jurisdiction, but he made it quite clear that Eichmann was involved. In other words, both Kaltenbrunner and Pohl tried to shove on to the other the responsibility for being in charge of the bureaucracy, but both agreed, automatically, that Eichmann was the one involved, at least one of those involved.

Q. Pohl was kept in the witness wing in the Nuremberg gaol - is that correct?

A. Yes, in the witness wing there was the rest of the top hierarchy of Nazi Germany, and they were interrogated at times, called at times as witnesses by the defendants, sometimes by the prosecution; I had access to all of those - just as free access as I had to the top Nazis themselves.

Q. Is that where you also met Ohlendorf and Rudolf Hoess?

A. Yes.

Q. Was there any contact between the witnesses detained in the witness wing and the principal accused who were imprisoned in their cells?

A. No, that's why they were kept in a separate wing. They could only be called to discuss particular cases, if they were needed as witnesses, and then the attorney might call the witness to discuss something with the defendant. Otherwise they were kept quite separate.

Q. You said that other people spoke to you about Eichmann. Who were they?

A. Well, the main one was Rudolf Hoess, the Commandant of Auschwitz.

Q. What did Hoess say about Eichmann?

A. Well, he seemed to be unable to discuss the extermination programme without referring to Eichmann, and at first I hardly noticed this, but when I started to get written statements from him for psychological purposes, the name came in more and more, and it gradually dawned on me that this man must be a key figure in the whole extermination programme.

Q. What do you mean by "it dawned on me"?

A. Well, I was starting to investigate something else. What I was really interested in was what makes these Nazis tick. So I was trying to find out what made Colonel Hoess tick, how could he do things like this? And in the orderly procedure of getting a case history on a subject, I asked Colonel Hoess to write an autobiography telling his entire history from childhood up to the present time.

Q. Are you referring to that autobiography which was published under the title "Commandant of Auschwitz"?

A. Oh, no - I am speaking of the original autobiography which Colonel Hoess wrote for me in Nuremberg, for purely psychological purposes, in his own handwriting.

Q. You have kept it in your possession until now, and it has not been published so far?

A. That's right - that is one of the original written documents I had to confirm my conversations, and it hasn't been published except for excerpts which I used in analysing the case of Rudolf Hoess in my second book, The Psychology of Dictatorship.

Q. Did Hoess write it before he wrote his autobiography in Poland?

A. Oh, yes - definitely; he had not yet been brought to Poland to stand trial, and I was the first one, I believe, to ask him for his case history.

Q. I notice there is a date at the top - 10 April 1946. And Hoess ended it on 12 April. It took him two days to write - would that be correct?

A. Yes, that would be about right.

Q. And it has not yet been published?

A. Not as such, no - as I said - except for brief excerpts.

Q. Is this the original handwriting of Hoess?

A. This is the original.

Q. Signed by him?

A. Yes, this is Rudolf Hoess' signature, and this is exactly the document which he wrote for me.

Presiding Judge: Did the witness receive this from the hands of Hoess?

Witness Gilbert: I received this from Hoess himself and have kept it in my possession ever since, except that I showed it to Mr. Hausner when I came here.

Attorney General: I submit this document. To my regret we have not managed to make copies. We shall make copies for the Court. We shall ask for the document to be returned to us so that we may print it. The handwriting of Hoess is quite legible.

Presiding Judge: This will be exhibit T/1169.

You will receive it back after the session, in order to make copies of it. Has Dr. Servatius seen the document?

Attorney General: Dr. Servatius has received from us a copy of the English translation, since Dr. Gilbert made an English translation for himself. And I gave him the complete translation.

Presiding Judge: Please also give him the German original.

Attorney General: Certainly.

Dr. Servatius: May I request a photocopy of the handwritten document, in order to show it to the Accused?

Attorney General: I have no objection to Defence Counsel receiving the document and showing it to the Accused.

Presiding Judge: The document will be returned to you, and you can submit it to Defence Counsel.

Attorney General: I have a manuscript of Hoess which has also not yet been published. I shall let him have it immediately.

I understand that Eichmann is mentioned in the autobiography written by Hoess?

Witness Gilbert: Yes, I noticed that. That is how I began to get the impression that Colonel Hoess cannot describe the extermination programme without referring to Eichmann, even though he is only supposed to be writing a personal autobiography for psychological purposes.

Q. At a later stage we shall draw the Court's attention to what it says there.

Tell me, Professor Gilbert, did Hoess testify in Court?

A. Yes. He was a witness for Kaltenbrunner.

Q. He gave evidence, or at any rate evidence was led, showing that 2,500,000 men, women and children had been exterminated in the gas chambers at Auschwitz.

A. Yes.

Q. What was the effect of this evidence on the other accused in that trial, as far as you remember?

A. Well, this was one of the main psychological problems at the trial. The atrocity evidence of the extermination and the films of the atrocities and concentration camps sometimes had a very shocking effect on the defendants themselves, and I was very anxious to find out just how genuine this was, and what their guilt reactions were from a psychological point of view.

Q. Do you remember what Hans Frank said to you?

A. Yes. In connection with the testimony of Rudolf Hoess, he stopped me in the hall on the way to lunch or from lunch and said: "Captain Gilbert, this was the lowest point of the trial. Just imagine a man sitting there and saying out of his own mouth: I murdered two and a half million men, women, and children." Oh yes, I remember the additional comment: "People will talk about this for a thousand years."

Q. Do you recall the testimony of Keitel who, I believe, was the Chief of the German General Staff?

A. That's right. I recall Keitel's reaction to the atrocities particularly vividly in connection with the atrocities films. And when I saw him in the cell later, he said: "Those dirty SS swine! If I had known what they were up to, I would have told my son, I'll shoot you rather than let you join the SS." He was, of course, at the same time trying to indicate that it was not the army that had committed these horrible atrocities. But he did react emotionally and with great shock.

Q. Do you remember any unusual reaction on the part of anyone else?

A. Well, there were a number of them. We could, of course, go on and on, but I think we want to come back to the documents that form the picture that I gradually formed of the role of Adolf Eichmann.

Q. That is correct.

A. Well, in connection with getting these guilt reactions, I would have to present the reaction of Goering, which leads to the next document which I received from Colonel Hoess. Goering's reaction was to try to brush it all aside, to tell everybody that this was all exaggerated propaganda. "Oh, they are a bunch of SS Schweinehunde doing some dirty things, but it is all exaggerated, it's all propaganda."

So, I would engage Goering in conversation in front of the others and say: "Well, now, you can't just brush off the murder of two and a half million people. The German people themselves will demand to know how did this happen. The conscience of the world demands to know how did this happen. Do you want to go down in history as a man who just laughed it off?" ...And we would argue along this line.

You see, the only way of appealing to Goering was not through conscience, but through his egotistical role in history. And I knew that he was trying to brush aside the crimes, so that he would not lose his chance to get his picture in the German history books, because he knew that even the German people would be horrified by it. Particularly because women and children had been murdered. The killing of the men would not damage his picture in the German history books, he told me.

Now then, realizing that he was determined to try to blot out the memory of this horrible crime from history, I felt that, psychologically, historically and humanly, it was absolutely necessary to see to it that this was properly documented - both from the historical and the psychological point of view.

Q. And then, what did you do?

A. I therefore told him...I'm sorry. No, the next step was his clinching argument, namely, that it was technically impossible to exterminate two and a half million people inside of the three or three and a half years that Colonel Hoess was Commandant of Auschwitz. This seemed to be very convincing to some of the other Nazi leaders.

Q. What did you do, then?

A. I then told him that, of course, I was no expert in mass production of extermination, but that there was an expert in the witness wing, and I could get the details from him. I was, of course, referring to Colonel Hoess.

Q. And then you took a sheet of paper and you wrote at the top certain words in German?

A. That's right. I wrote a question in German.

Q. And you gave it to Hoess and got his written reply?

A. That's right. I handed it to him, and he wrote the reply in his own handwriting.

Q. You gave it to him on 23 April 1946, and you received his reply on 24 April 1946?

A. Yes. I believe the dates are recorded on the document.

Q. Kindly read out to the Court the question and the answer (I already have a printed copy here - it is a short document).

A. The question which I wrote down in German was: Goering wants to know how it was at all possible, from a technical point of view, to destroy two and a half million people in the course of three and a half years.

Q. What was Hoess' reply?

Presiding Judge: Mr. Hausner, this is going to take very long, with the translation.

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